If you walk into Lauren Weeks’ sixth grade English Language Arts class at Kansas City International Academy, there’s a chance you could see the seventh-year teacher dressed up in a variety of different costumes while giving a lesson. No, every day isn’t Halloween. And no, it isn’t random. Weeks has found a unique way to connect and interact with her students.
“I strive to make learning fun,” said Weeks. “A few years, back I started dressing up as a grandma and named her ‘Grammar Granny’ to teach grammar lessons. This caught on at school and ultimately ‘Grammar Granny’ ended up teaching lessons to grades first through fifth!”
She’s also taught as ‘Detective Weeks’ when her class was searching for evidence in a block of text, among other costume characters. Her goal with this approach is to instill a desire and passion to learn by providing engaging content and a variety of opportunities to read, think, discuss and write. It’s a unique method, but it’s succeeded in resonating with her students and helped strengthen relationships.
Dancing is also strongly encouraged in her classroom. Weeks created a TikTok account as yet another creative way to connect with her students. She learned a number of trendy dances, and her students immediately loved her style. They’ve even asked her to create TikToks with them to post and share on their own personal accounts.
“My commitment to my students goes beyond the interactions in the classroom,” said Weeks. “I created a ‘Citizen of the Month’ program where I choose a student each month who displays kind and respectful behavior. The winner receives a trophy and is then able to select one friend to go on a fun activity with after school.”
Kansas City International Academy has an incredibly diverse group of students from all over the world. Nearly 30 countries are represented, and there are more than 15 languages spoken throughout the school. Weeks enjoys seeing all types of students unite and work together in the classroom, in their respective sports and other various extracurricular activities.
“My students are loving and hilarious,” said Weeks. “They make my job really fun. I also work with passionate teachers who always go above and beyond for our students. We push each other to be the best for our students each and every day while celebrating accomplishments regularly. We are truly one, big supportive family.”
When it comes to advice, Weeks has a simple phrase that she follows: It’s okay to not know, but it’s not okay to not try.
“Middle school can be a scary and insecure time for students,” said Weeks. “I strive to build a classroom environment where students feel safe to try every day. I want students to understand mistakes are okay, and that’s how we learn. I want them to feel determined to put in their best effort, and I want them to feel proud of themselves.”
Weeks believes students learn best when they know what to expect, and they are able to feel comfortable in their environment. The time and attention to detail that is shared at the beginning of each school year sets a clear expectation for the classroom. By doing so, Weeks has seen an increase in learning and an overall smoother transition by her students.
“Instilling standards with my students can teach them responsibility, time management and accountability,” said Weeks. “These are all important life skills that will enhance their overall quality of life.”
“Lauren was voted by her colleagues as the ‘2021 Teacher of the Year’ for Kansas City International Academy,” said Weeks nominator, Monica Smith. “When she heard of transportation struggles of a student’s family, she raised enough funds to get the student a bike, meet some basic family needs like bedding, and even some toys. When another student shared about a medical condition and her dream to play football, Lauren was able to get her connected with Kansas City’s women’s football team to join a flag football team through the Chiefs. She even went above and beyond by personally taking her to practices and games for seven weeks!”
“As indicated by Lauren’s nominator, her excellence stretches far beyond the classroom walls,” said Jenny Housley, Blue KC Senior Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer. “It takes a special and passionate teacher to show the kind of love and support for her students on a recurring basis, but Lauren checks all of those boxes. Her unwavering support, in all aspects of their lives, is a truly inspiring characteristic. We’re proud to help highlight her tremendous accomplishments.”
Blue KC Sporting Samaritans will continue to be recognized monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games. Fans are encouraged to nominate teachers and students who are making a positive impact on their schools and communities by using the form online at https://www.sportingkc.com/BlueKC.